So tonight, I live-tweeted The Event. You've heard of The Event -- NBC has been shoving it down your throats for months. Now, that's the job of the network: Promote the show. With The Event, NBC decided to promote what it wasn't: Jason Ritter losing his girlfriend, something happening to the President, a bunch of other stuff. That, of course, was supposed to whet the audience's appetite -- then just what IS the Event? This works awesome for a movie, but it's not quite effective for a TeeVee show. And it also makes the audience ignore the shit that isn't The Event. I know I blathered about this before, but forgive me. I've had two glasses of wine and I've seen The Event.
Everybody wants to recreate a hit, and the golden mean for television is to recreate a show that everybody watched AND talked about. A water-cooler show that makes them money. That's what they all want. Lost was that show, and networks have been trying to recreate that success ever since. FlashForward didn't work. V didn't work. And now NBC brings you The Event: The biggest, most sweeping, globe-spanning, history-making, world-changing drama of them all.
And that's the problem. Lost was the antithesis of that. The networks are confusing a global phenomenon for a show about a global phenomenon. Lost was about a group of people. It wasn't about saving the world from some vast conspiracy. And although a lot of people only watched it to get answers, it didn't begin like that. It was a character drama.
As the legend of The Event goes, NBC was looking for an event show. Now, as far as network development, they are looking for different things weekly. No, they literally ARE. And they've gotten into the habit of not even buying things for months, so by the time the development season is almost over, they suddenly go, "Oh shit, we gotta buy some stuff." And then they start issuing the directives that are not procedurals: Soaps, dramedies, event shows, and "ideas writers are passionate about." We all fall for that last one, like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.
But NBC wanted an event show, and Nick Wauters had a pilot called The Event. I think you know where this is going.
The pilot certainly looks fantastic. They obviously spent a lot of money on it. The cast is solid. And the pilot is directed by the wonderful Jeffrey Reiner, who did a marvelous job with our episode of Haunted. He was also the producing director on Friday Night Lights. He does a nice job with The Event, but... I think he could do more with something a bit less conventional. Because at the end of the day, The Event is a pretty conservative, predictable show. The gimmick is that you don't, of course, find out what The Event is. Beyond that, the show flashes back and uses false beats to ratchet up tension. It's not effective in a TeeVee show. It barely works in a movie. On TeeVee, you're asking the audience to invite your characters into their homes. But if you're constantly being dishonest with them, they will disengage from your show. You simply cannot have a show that is entirely about the secret. An audience needs more. People didn't sign up for Lost because of the secret. They signed up because of the characters.
The Event doesn't give the audience time to get to know the characters. It's too busy being clever and trying to tease the audience and hide information at the same time. If you need to do that, then your show just isn't going to work. Sure, people may tune in for awhile. Like I said, the show looks fantastic. And the secret is intriguing (although not at all hard to figure out, based on the pilot). But soon, the audience will tire of the constant teasing. It will require characters. And it will drift away.
Networks want to reach for the sky with their shows. They want their Mad Men, or their Lost, or their Breaking Bad. But reaching for the sky isn't going to get them there. Sadly, they need to trust that writers are coming in and pitching shows they are passionate about, with worlds they have developed and characters that come to life. Writers pitching ideas they are directed to pitch doesn't work. Because if nobody has a handle on the framework of the show, then that show will not succeed. But passion shows fail as often as the big event shows do, unfortunately. And the networks would prefer to have a Lost or a CSI than a Friday Night Lights, or a Gilmore Girls. So they don't buy family dramas, or quiet shows. They still go for high-concept premises. But characters carry TeeVee and if you don't have them, you don't have a show.
The Event is named after its secret. There are myriad ways to have fixed the show in development, but it seems that it was always pointed towards being big in scope. We'll see if this is its downfall, but I rather think it will be.
Conversely, Hawaii 5-0 also premiered tonight. A remake, of course, this show knows where it lives. The writer creates and develops distinct characters with backstories and lives, and plops them down in paradise, giving the audience a peek inside a culture we haven't seen since Magnum P.I. As an advocate for fun television, I can't appreciate Hawaii 5-0 more. Impeccably cast and directed and cleanly and economically written, this show should be a hit. Because sometimes, making entertainment is harder than making event shows.
I still want to talk about this insane development season, and some Fringe stuff, and get to comments. But for once, I decided to be current. Props, right?